HELLO AGAIN TO "THE GOODBYE GIRL"
By: NELSON A GARCIA
Marsha Mason has received two Golden Globe Awards and four Academy Award nominations for Best Actress throughout her career. She has been involved, not only in films, television, and theater, but also in owning a car racing team as well as having worked on an organic farm for the past 20 years. What a diverse lady! We are delighted to be able to speak with her about her pursuits.
55+ How young were you when you realized that you wanted to pursue acting?
MM I realized it during my freshman year of high school. Although I had an uncle, Uncle Jean, who used to call me Sarah, (after Sarah Bernhardt, because he thought I was so theatrical) and I was only 7 years old. So who knows? (laugh). I was a member of the speech and drama club and competed in the various regional competitions so I had a very active participation in the theater. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to be an actress and that made the determination of my college education very clear to me.
55+ Do you credit your performance in Neil Simon’s play, “The Good Doctor” with launching your acting career?
MM No. Actually, I had the wonderful opportunity to come to New York and struggle like everyone else. My very fi rst Off Broadway show was a Norman Mailer play called ‘The Deer Park’ and after that, Kurt Vonnegut’s one and only play, ‘Happy Birthday Wanda June.’ By the time I auditioned for ‘The Good Doctor,’ I had already been to ACT in San Francisco and was their leading lady in five different productions as well as having made the movie, ‘Cinderella Liberty.’
55+ Receiving four nominations for an Academy Award for Best Actress and winning 2 Golden Globes must give you a great feeling of accomplishment, does it?
MM Yes, of course! At the very first Golden Globes, I was busy doing ‘The Good Doctor’ so I could not attend. It was a lot of fun attending the second one for ‘The Goodbye Girl.’ Richard Dreyfuss and I were both there. It was very exciting! Although I was very nervous as I do not do well in the public spotlight. I tend to hide behind characters.
55+ Being a successful actress is a very difficult and busy job. Tell us a little about that?
MM My life was very full, very productive and I was very happy. The stress really for women, perhaps for men too, is managing a full size career and a family life. I was married with 2 step daughters, so I really had to learn to manage my schedule. It can be very difficult with the demands of a husband, children, and a career. Overall, I was very excited and pleased to have as much work as I did. As a matter of fact, I think it is very important to stay active as you get older because it keeps you young, keeps you vital and keeps you responsible to your body and your mind and your emotional well being. It is very important to do the things you want to do and not just the things that you have to do. Always be true to yourself, follow your intuition, rely on your experience and listen to what your heart tells you.
55+ You decided to take a break from full time acting in 1993 at the age of 50 to start a new business. What drove you to this decision?
MM The business had changed a great deal in Los Angeles. There was a big move for the youth market. The parts just were not there that I had been used to. So, I needed to get out of LA. I was now divorced and I did not feel comfortable there. On a whim, I decided to move to New Mexico and throw the pieces of my life up in the air, sort of like a kaleidoscope and see what pattern would form when they all came down. I did not plan on being a farmer. I did not plan on having another career. But I bought raw land and then just sort of began to paint a new life with nature there. It has been a very important part of my life because a lot of my identity at that time was tied to work and if I was not working, I had some issues as to how I viewed myself. Who was I without work? So, I had one type of life in New Mexico and I continued to act when I was asked to. I think I became a fuller, more authentic person. I became a business woman, an entrepreneur, created a line of products, and became a certified organic and bio-dynamic farmer. All this was very exciting and very educational. I learned a lot about life in a completely different environment. Living in Los Angeles was like living in a bubble. You live behind gated communities and only see the people that are in your business and that is all they talk about. By going to New Mexico, I saw a completely different world and much more complicated world between the Native Americans, the Hispanics, and the Northern and Southern New Mexicans. It was a very complex tapestry there, but utterly gorgeous!
55+ What is it like living and working at ‘Resting in the River,’ your organic farm in New Mexico?
MM I learned patience with Mother Nature because there is not much you can do by yourself. You have to work with her. I appreciated the basics of bio-dynamic farming . It is farming that utilizes the whole environment. You plant by the moon and you realize that you are dealing with the essence or energy of the individual plant with the soil and the water. By approaching it in a philosophical way, the vitality of the plant is much more apparent. I learned something brand new.
55+ You have also been involved in car racing. Where did this interest come from?
MM I started the car racing after I got divorced because I did not have enough to do. I hung around with Paul Newman and his team for about a year and he suggested I go to some racing schools. I put together a small team of professional racers. I did it for seven years and learned a whole new talent. I was one of the only women in the Southern Pacific Division and I always finished in the top 4 or 5 and went to the nationals three or four times. I had a lot of big experiences by stepping outside of the box, really. I do not necessarily recommend it to anybody but it is what I did and I am very grateful because I have all these experiences.
55+ In 2000, you published ‘Journey: A Personal Odyssey” about your life. What brought about this project?
MM I was having lunch at the Four Seasons in New York City and Art Buchwald, the famous columnist, along with his publisher were sitting next to me. His publisher turned to me and said, ‘If you ever decide to write a book, here is my card.’ I did not do anything with it because I never intended to write it. I was in New Mexico one afternoon with Shirley MacLaine, who lives directly behind me. I told her about that afternoon at the Four Seasons 2 years before and Shirley said ‘Do it, Do it…it will be the most important thing you will ever do!‘ And I just said, ‘oh well, ok.’ I was doing a play in NY and I would just come home and write. The publisher said to write the most difficult parts and then write the fun parts. I had about thirty pages and gave it to my agent and she said that she would get back to me. I did not think any more of it and after a while she got back to me and told me that she had sold it. Simon & Schuster gave me a small advance and it took me about three and a half years to finish the book. I learned something really important on my book tour. I think everyone should write their story. Everyone has a unique one. Write from the heart. By writing down the most difficult stuff along with the fun stuff, you somehow release yourself from the baggage of your life. I had that experience myself after I did the first draft and went back to St Louis, where I grew up and had one of the best trips I ever had. I recommend that everyone should write their own story.
55+ You are now selling your farm in New Mexico and want to dedicate more time to the theater. Where do you plan to go to pursue your acting?
MM I will probably relocate to the East Coast somewhere.
55+ What suggestions do you have for our readers thinking about starting mid-life careers, like you did with the farm?
MM Try to pursue something that you really always wanted to do and that you never had the chance to do. In whatever sort of limited way that you can, find classes, find books, find workshops, whatever it is that would appeal to you. There is always a way to begin. Be open to what the universe will send your way. Have a clear intention and state it very specifically in a single sentence. And, as you go to sleep each night, say this…. “I fully intend to…” and just think about that clear intention. You call on the source energy or consciousness of the world, if you will, and you ask for guidance. Put a pad and a pencil near your bedside. Write down your dreams whenever you wake up and then go back to sleep. The dreams will tell you a lot about what is resting in the deeper recesses of your subconscious and it will come forward. It will send you some ideas or guidance. You have to be patient and practice it. I also think that meditation is terribly important as you get older. You have to prepare for the mortality that comes with being a human being. That’s a great way to start if you do not know what to do and you want to shake up your life a little bit. You need to give yourself some time during the day, where you will not be disturbed for 15 to 20 minutes. Just close your eyes, get attached to your breathing, be aware of your breathing. It will lessen your stress and you will be surprised!
55+ Has your natural and holistic approach to life helped you to stay healthy and fit? If so, do you have any suggestions for our readers?
MM This is something I pursue. The more healthful you eat and what you put on your skin is vital. The skin is the largest organ that your body has and you have to be careful and read the descriptions of what you put on your body. The more natural and organic it is…. the better. •
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